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Iranian Revolutionary Court Charges Sufi Dervishes

A Revolutionary Court in the western Iranian city of Boroujerd has brought some 189 Gonabadi dervishes to court for questioning and presented 10 with criminal charges, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Mostafa Azmayesh, a representative of the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi Muslim community outside Iran, told Radio Farda on March 6 that the dervishes were questioned on the previous day on charges, including "disobedience," "disrupting public order," and "insulting high-ranking authorities of the regime."

The head of Boroujerd's Justice Department, Mohammad Sadegh Akbari, said on March 5 that the dervish defendants and their lawyers numbered "about 15 people in all," not 189.

Azmayesh termed Akbari's announcement vague and said from a legal point of view, the phrase "about 15" makes no sense. He added that following the publicity generated by the mass questioning in court of the dervishes, Boroujerd's Justice Department reconsidered its decision.

Consequently, of the 189 dervishes who appeared in court on March 5, only 10 were told they will be put on trial and the rest were told they would be dealt with later, Azmayesh said.

Azmayesh said that in 2007, Iran's Basij militia attacked and demolished the dervishes' main house of worship in Boroujerd, and detained and beat many Sufi dervishes. He added that the dervishes who were injured during the raid filed a complaint with officials at the time, but it is they who have now been charged.

Azmayesh said authorities have accused the dervishes of "disobedience" because, in their view, the dervishes who did not leave their house of worship at the time of the attack resisted the regime, hence disrupting national security.

"This means that being a Sufi dervish is considered a crime by Iranian authorities," Azmayesh said.

Read more in Persian here